Classic love story interpreted in dance

Colorado Ballet dancers Igor Vassine and Maria Mosina as Romeo and Juliet. Photo by Allen Birnbach
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Choreographer Alun Jones, who is in Denver setting his choreography for “Romeo and Juliet” on the Colorado Ballet’s dancers, said that when he originally choreographed the work for the Louisville Ballet in 1982, he started with Prokofiev’s music.

“It’s intimidating — it’s so wonderful. I had a minor panic. Then I started with one little dance…” He worked on it for almost two months — a few weeks with the principal dancers, then the rest of the company. (His wife was the original Juliet.)

He and his wife are spending five weeks with the Colorado Ballet, although they are also staging “Coppelia” with the Louisville Ballet this month. He flew back there for a week and she came to Denver. “In the pas de deux, she can tell the girls what they should think.”

The last week before the Feb. 25 opening, the company can rehearse in the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, where they will perform. (About 12 to 7 p.m. each day.)

His comment about “what to think” comes from a problem he sees with some young American dancers: They may be so focused on technique that they forget they are onstage and acting a part as well as dancing.

Jones, who was born in South Wales, studied with Dame Marie Rambert in London, who insisted her students be “onstage” at all times. He joined the New London Ballet in 1972 as technical director and toured internationally, then came to the U.S. to work with the Louisville Ballet, where he stayed until 2002 retirement. Louisville has continued to be home base —the grandchildren are there — and he travels to choreograph for various companies.

His staging of this full-length ballet focuses on varying degrees of love between the characters and their relationships to one another. He calls his style in “Romeo and Juliet” neo-classical and says he loves to stage the classics.

Jones also serves as a site visitor for the National Endowment for the Arts and has judged an international dance symposium in Croatia.

This is Colorado Ballet’s 50th season and the company recently announced that it’s 2010 production of “The Nutcracker” set new records for attendance and revenue — a happy note for artistic director Gil Boggs and new executive director Marie Belew Wheatley, who came on board in September after a 10-month restructuring effort by the board of trustees.

Wheatley has lived in Denver almost 33 years and has worked in nonprofit management (Red Cross and American Humane Society), while being involved with several arts organizations as a board member. She saw many performances of “The Nutcracker“ and loved each one better, she said. With “Romeo and Juliet” completing this season, she will move on to planning for the next season.

The company will make a guest appearance at the Arvada Center during the summer and perhaps elsewhere. Programming for the next season is not yet confirmed, but she is excited over what is being considered. Watch for announcements.

Colorado Ballet will present Shakespeare’s classic love story, “Romeo and Juliet,” from Feb. 25 through March 6 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, Denver Performing Arts Complex, with new-to-Denver choreography and a live orchestra playing the score by Sergei Prokofiev. Six dancers will share the two leading roles.

If you go:

Colorado Ballet present “Romeo and Juliet” Feb. 25 through March 6 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, Denver Performing Arts Complex. Performances: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 25, 26, March 4, 5; 6:30 p.m. March 2; 2 p.m. Feb. 26, 27, March 5, 6. Tickets range from $19 to $135. www.coloradoballet.org, 303-837-8888 ext. 2. Ticket office at 1278 Lincoln open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

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